Current account surplus doubled previous year on cheap oil

Overall bank lending in Japan was up 2.2% on year in April, the Bank of Japan said on Thursday - coming in at 499.763 trillion yen.

A cheap crude oil helped reduce goods imports despite slower exports, helping to turn around the trade balance to a surplus of 629.9 billion yen in fiscal 2015, a reversal from a deficit of 6.59 trillion yen in fiscal 2014.

The value of crude oil imports slid 37.9 percent as average oil prices almost halved to $48.71 per barrel in fiscal 2015.

Helped by the travel surplus and a record-high royalties surplus of ¥2.42 trillion, the deficit in the services balance more than halved to ¥1.21 trillion, the smallest since fiscal 1996.

The surplus in the primary income account, which reflects how much Japan earns from foreign investments, increased 2.9 percent to ¥20.56 trillion, due mainly to a rise in profits from direct and securities investments amid the yen's depreciation.

Relatively cheap energy exports, an influx of tourists from overseas and income from investments abroad has aided Japan's trade surplus in recent months.

"Japan is likely to keep its current account surplus for a while", Atsushi Takeda, an economist at Itochu Tokyo, said before the report was released.

That follows the 2.0% gain in March. The yen has strengthened about 11 percent since the start of the year. It was the 21st straight month of surplus in the balance of payment.